BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Thousands of employees with Kaleida Health will begin voting on whether to strike this week. Union leaders and Kaleida have been negotiating a new contract since March, but they still remain far apart on key issues, according to both CWA, 1199SEIU and Kaleida.

If the workers vote ‘yes,’ it gives the unions the bargaining power to call a strike and give Kaleida a 10-day notice.

“Strikes in healthcare are a disaster — they’re a disaster for the health system, but more importantly, they’re a disaster for the community, because the community depends on these large health systems for a huge portion of their care,” said Larry Zielinski, a former Buffalo General President and is currently a health care administration expert at UB.

“It’s obviously coming to a boiling point here,” he added. “I think the health system and health systems in general are in a really difficult situation, especially non-profits like Kaleida or the Catholic Health System.”

Zielinski believes both sides will reach an agreement before a strike happens, but admits he thought the same thing about CWA and Catholic Health last year.

“I did not think that the Mercy strike would happen last year and I was wrong,” he said. “So with that context, I think they’ll settle this strike or this labor negotiation before it gets to a strike action.”

“The next step is to show Kaleida that people are very serious, I’ve negotiated many contracts with Kaleida, we know how to get a deal done, there’s no doubt about that,” said Cori Gambini, an RN at Millard Fillmore Suburban and the president of CWA Local 1168. “We want to reach a deal. A strike is not going to be good for buffalo and for care and we know that but there are things happening in hospitals across the nation that need to be fixed. So we’re willing to do it just like Mercy did.”

Unlike last year with the strike at Mercy Hospital, this strike won’t just affect one hospital. Union workers throughout all of Kaleida’s facilities can walk out on strike.

“In theory, if there were a labor action — a strike — it could be at all the Kaleida facilities, Buffalo General, Gates, Millard Suburban, DeGraff, Oishei Children’s,” he said. “You can’t run a hospital without nurses, you can’t run a hospital without service in employees.”

Kaleida Health released the following statement regarding the vote:

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.